Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance. All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ. It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there. To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.
The pornpocalypse, as it’s colloquially known, is real and it is here (yet again). The term pornpocalypse refers to when an ebook store gets in a snit about the smut that self-publishers are selling through their site — and in response, the site purges all offending titles, as well as purging a number of other titles that are not “offensive” but are still erotica (which is often deemed offensive in itself).
It famously happened — more than once — with Amazon, where the problematic titles as well as “innocent” erotica titles all were purged from their stores. And it’s happening again over on Kobo’s UK store. This time, WH Smith, which carries Kobo UK titles, got upset about incest and bestiality themes in some self-published erotica. Their response? They shut down their website until Kobo UK purged ALL self-published titles from the system. Yup, that’s right, ALL self-published titles, no matter the genre. It’s a bit of an overreaction, I think. You can read up about it here and here. Supposedly, a number of titles will make it back on to Kobo UK and WH Smith, but we’ll see how much gets back on there.
This is obviously a serious blow to erotica authors who write in these specific sub-genres. It can even have serious consequences for authors who write in general erotica categories, even if they’re not in this specific sub-genre. (I’ve long forgotten where I saw the article or posting, but in one of Amazon’s purges of incest and pseudo-incest, a number of people reported their non-incest erotica books being delisted because there was a familial term in the book’s blurb. For example, referencing a brother or father or mother — even if the character doesn’t have sex — was getting some people banned. So if the book was about a young guy fucking daddy’s best friend, that could get caught up in the sweeping bans.)
But this post is about surviving the pornpocalypse, not how devastating and non-sensical it can be. The plain and simple truth is that these websites are privately owned and they can sell what they choose. If they don’t want to sell books about dogs that save lives, then they don’t have to. If they don’t want to sell pseudo-incest, then they don’t have to. It’s not a violation of free speech, no matter how you frame it.
There are two keys to surviving a pornpocalypse:
- Have a wide platform.
- Research appropriate venues.
Let’s go in each point in depth.
Have a wide platform.
If an author publishes only on Amazon, and Amazon sweeps through their erotica offerings and bans a bunch of titles, that devastates the author’s one and only income source.
This is less of a problem than it used to be, I think. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program used to offer very attractive royalties for borrows in turn for exclusivity. By being exclusive and publishing only on Amazon, your title can be enrolled in Kindle Select / Kindle Unlimited, where Unlimited subscribers can read your book for free as part of their monthly subscription payment. In turn, the author would get a flat royalty fee, usually about $1.35.
A few months ago, Amazon changed from a flat per-book royalty to a per-page royalty. Suddenly, the payment dropped to about half a cent per page, meaning a borrow of an erotic short would earn a handful of cents rather than the $1.35 it used to. (And it seems like it might go even lower than half a cent.) Kindle Unlimited is a lot less attractive than it used to be for the self-published author, and a lot of erotica authors have now branched out and are publishing on multiple sites.
Here’s where I publish: Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Google Play, Excitica, and Smashwords (which distributes to, among others, Kobo and Barnes and Noble).
On a Reddit post I read about one of the recent pornpocalypses, titles were affected primarily on Kobo and to a lesser extent on Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Say I were to hit a bad luck streak and I got my title banned from all three of those. Well, while Amazon is one of my major income sources, it’s not my only one — I do fairly well on Google Play and Excitica, and quite well on All Romance eBooks. My income on those titles would dip but they would not die.
But a “wide platform” can be taken in another sense — sub-genres. Let’s say an author exclusively writes pseudo-incest and that’s the sub-genre going through a pornpocalypse (as it often is). A series of bans could absolutely devastate the author’s income. But if pseudo-incest is only one part of the writer’s platform and they also write contemporary erotica, BDSM, breathplay, and other things, then it would only be one part of the platform that suffers, and not the entire thing.
Research Appropriate Venues.
There’s no denying that Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble are important sites to be on given their market presence and easy name recognition. However, these are also the sites that are most prone to the pornpocalypse. So, yes, get on them as they’ll likely be your bread and butter, but don’t depend on them.
Besides, if you’re writing a questionable niche — like pseudo-incest or even actual incest — avid readers will know where to find the books they want. The casual Amazon reader who wants to try a pseudo-incest book just once is not the same as a dedicated fan who exclusively reads that niche. Pseudo-incest fans will know which sites cater to their interests and start shopping there. Amazon is truly not the be-all end-all for erotica authors.
Here are some other more appropriate venues (that I’ve personally tried) that won’t be so quick to ban you:
Smashwords — While they distribute to Kobo and Barnes and Noble, which can both suffer pornpocalypses, Smashwords itself does not pornpocalypse its books. And you can publish some pretty questionable stuff on there. They have the usual rules: no underage, no animals, and (if I recall) they’re a bit iffy on piss and scat.
All Romance eBooks — This site is a little cleaner, so it’s better for contemporary and BDSM erotica rather than the more fringe things. However, since it’s a romance and erotica webstore, they, too, don’t suffer from pornpocalypses.
Google Play — Google Play can be frustrating to publish on and they have an automatic discount on your pricing that can mess up your Amazon sales due to price matching. However, once you figure it all out and you price higher (so the discounted price matches the regular price on other sites), it can be a good source of sales. From my understanding, Google Play has not gone through a pornpocalypse. However, it’s important to note that Google Play is not open to new publishers at the moment.
Excitica — This website is run by erotica author Selena Kitt. You can be guaranteed that this place will not suffer from a pornpocalypse. I’ve found sales to be surprisingly good on this site and I’m quite happy with my experience there.
And here are a few sites I have no experience with (and thus can’t personally recommend) that might be what you need:
Lot’s Cave — This place seems to cater to pseudo-incest and actual incest. If you write these niches, then this is the site for you.
A1 Adult eBooks — This site seems to thrive on a variety of niches that wouldn’t last long on Amazon. This site does have odd formatting requirements and has a mandatory discount on new releases that could mess up Amazon’s price matching. However, this may be what you need if you see your niche well-represented here.
CarnalBooks — This site isn’t up yet. However, it looks professional and they are open to everything except underage. (Even though I don’t write in risky niches, I am keeping my eye on CarnalBooks and may sell my stories here once the site is live. I find their professionalism appealing.)
However, it’s important to note that these smaller independent websites sometimes come and go. A month ago there was a promising new one that I was setting up an account on, and it disappeared within a week… which also implies that authors should always be on the lookout for new venues, as they can appear out of nowhere and might perform surprisingly well for you. My greatest success for sales was through a short-lived e-store attached to a gay men’s nudist magazine, giving me sales I have never seen from any other vendor — but unfortunately, both the store and the magazine are now gone.
There’s no denying that a pornpocalypse is bad news — it could be devastating for some authors, especially those who specialize in “riskier” niches. But a pornpocalypse doesn’t need to be a career killer — it can be managed and its impact can be lessened.